If the ax is dull, And one does not sharpen the edge, Then he must use more strength; But wisdom brings success. (Ecclesiastes 10:10, N.K.J.V.)
This verse teaches us the value of working smarter rather than harder. Obviously, sharpening the edge of a dull ax blade shows wisdom and makes wood-chopping easier. That’s the specific illustration Solomon uses to make his point. But there’s no doubt that he intended the application of the teaching to cover any and all areas where wisdom is required in life. That includes the area of repentance.
Since we Christians typically think of the start of a new year as a time to recommit ourselves to repentance, let us be sure to spiritually sharpen our blades before we attempt any repentance. And how do we sharpen our blades? First, we solemnly rededicate ourselves to Jesus for the purpose of bringing everything about us under His Lordship. Second, in blunt honesty, we confess our sins to Him and ask Him to forgive those sins. Third, we immerse ourselves afresh and anew in daily prayer, Bible study, and the doing of God’s will.
You see, Christian, if your plan to repent of the lingering sin in your life hinges upon little more than you throwing more effort into not committing the sin, that is akin to you chopping harder without sharpening your ax blade. Consequently, your plan is destined for failure. After all, you’ve “tried harder” to repent of the sin in the past, only to find that increased effort didn’t get the job done, right? Well, what makes you think that taking that same approach in this new year is going to produce different results?
A better plan, one with a greater chance of success, features you sharpening your ax blade spiritually as an indispensable part of you accomplishing your repentance. Instead of simply trying to give up your sin, you also start up with an increased amount of prayer, Bible study, and submission to God’s will. By doing that, the hole that is left in your 24-hour day by you no longer wasting precious time on your sin will be filled with things of the Lord. That’s how you work smarter rather than harder at your repentance. And remember, our text verse doesn’t say that throwing more effort at a task will bring success at performing that task. Instead, it says that wisdom brings that success.